Friday, August 20, 2010

Last Act (Christopher Pike)

Melanie Martin is a new girl who arrives at Careville High and makes absolutely no friends. On one of her first days, she manages to hit the car of Rindy, a popular but not well liked girl. Rindy is a rich kid, who once dated Clyde. Clyde was a huge football star until the two were in an accident and he ended up paralyzed.

Melanie wants friends and ends up helping Susan Trels cheat on a math quiz. The two start talking and Susan asks her to try out for the school play. She’s a popular actress and agreed to a starring role in a later play, if she has the chance to direct one first. She picked a play from the 1940s by Stan Russel, which she and her friends found in a used bookstore. The story involves two couples, with one girl loving her friend’s husband. A murder happens and the play revolves around finding the killer.

It turns out that Rindy is playing the dead girl, the hot guy Marc is playing her husband and Melanie is auditioning for the role of the killer. The whole play is a secret from the actors, but Susan lets it slip that Melanie dies. Melanie meets the whole group, including Jeramie who found the play and is constantly taking photos of everyone. She also meets Carl, who’s the technician for the play and doesn’t act like his sister Rindy at all.

The problem with this book is that it’s way too long and there are whole chapters devoted to one simple thing. It’s like it takes Pike 20 pages just to explain someone shopping for groceries. Basically Melanie starts crushing on Marc, who rarely dates anyone, but he does offer to drive her home from rehearsals. He takes her out for dinner and she invites him to the school dance. They go with Susan and Jeramie.

They leave the dance early and Jeramie wants to see the ducks at the local pond. It’s the same place Rindy and Clyde were going when they had their accident. Melanie starts thinking that he went out with Rindy and he won’t give her a straight answer. She’s also pissed when he drops her off before anyone else, with barely a kiss good-night.

We finally get to the opening night of the play, which is half a book later. Susan comes in with the blanks for the shooting scene, but runs into another girl and drops the bullets. There’s a scuffle as they gather up all the bullets and put them back in the box. Melanie then decides to use the ones she bought for the night, instead of Susan’s box. Rindy freaks out when Melanie raises the gun during the play and shouts. Melanie shoots and Rindy ends up dead.

Melanie goes to jail, where she meets Captain Crosser. He tells her that Rindy was killed with a wad cutter that was inside her gun and has her fingerprints on it. Her mom pays bail to get her out of jail and is more concerned over her own reputation than her daughter. Her mom does arrange for a lawyer and kind of acts like she thinks Melanie killed the girl.

Melanie becomes obsessed with finding out who the killer is and questions everyone. She even goes to see Clyde and unknowingly tells him that Rindy was killed. She goes to see Jeramie who has a videotape of the play, but won’t let her see it. When he finally does, she discovers that he spliced the beginning of opening night, with the rehearsal, which means the tape doesn’t show the actual murder.

She heads to the used bookstore and finds another copy of the play. The shop keeper is a little surprised because it’s in such good condition and he can’t understand why the kids didn’t buy that one. He’s also surprised because it’s a photocopied script and photocopying wasn’t around back then. She also learns that Stan Russel never registered any works and there’s no record of him anywhere. She uses this to convince the captain that they need to do another performance of the play. This doesn’t really tell anyone anything, but Melanie thinks it does.

She has a dream that she’s playing Scrabble with Rindy, who shows her the tiles with Russel’s name on them. The captain then calls and wants her to meet him, which gives her enough time to meet Susan (who calls later) at the school and start tearing down the sets. Susan acts kind of strange, especially when Melanie says that she thinks Rindy planted the wad cutter and was planning her own suicide.

But then Susan confesses and Melanie realizes what Rindy was trying to tell her in the dream. Susan Trels and Stan Russel are the same people, same letters and everything. Susan wrote the play, as a way to mimic her own life, with her being the one in love with the guy. She loved Clyde, who looked at her like a little sister.

Before she can shoot her, Clyde shows up. He tells them that he was driving the car when he had his accident. Rindy convinced him to switch sides and let her take the blame, so her parents would take care of his medical bills. Susan acts like she’s going to shoot herself, but the cops show up.

The remaining group members head to the pond a few weeks later. Jeramie thought the play was a fake and suspected Susan, but couldn’t deal with the thought of losing his best friend, so he just acted crazy. Clyde goes with them, ready to head back to school. The book ends with Carl, Rindy’s brother asking for a photo of Melanie, to put with his picture of Rindy. Aw…or creepy.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is one of Pike's better novels. Some of my favorites are the non-supernatural ones, where he doesn't go into events/plots that are extremely weird (even if they are supposed to be fantasy or paranormal).

    What gets me about this book is that Melanie, while investigating Rindy's death, actually asks people if they killed her! Did she really expect the killer to just confess as soon as they were asked?